Parliamentary elections held in Croatia on January 3, 2000, were marked by increased fairness in the election law, and greater transparency in election administration, allowed opposition parties to win a majority. Nearly a decade of nationalist, authoritarian rule by the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) of the late Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman, ended. Since April 1990 when it defeated the League of Communists which ruled Croatia since World War II the HDZ maintained its grip on power through elections which were not blatantly fraudulent but nevertheless fell far short of the free and fair standard agreed to by OSCE participating States, including Croatia. There were signs throughout 1999 that the HDZ might resort to more blatant forms of election rigging in light of growing popular sentiment for change, but the passing of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in December diminished the ability of the partys rank-and-file to manipulate the results with impunity.
On election day itself, the transparency of the electoral system, including widespread observation by civic organizations and political parties, was combined with such a strong desire for change that the will of the people could not be distorted. For example, voter turnout was exceptionally high75 percent despite the timing of the election. Performance of polling committees was professional. The chief exception to this were the electoral practices in the diaspora vote held in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina, where incredibly high turnout was combined with poor procedures in many of the 29 polling stations.
The result was a clear victory for the leading opposition coalition of the Social Democratic Party of Ivica Racan and the Croatian Social Liberal Party of Drazen Budisa, which won 71 of the 151 seats in the House of Representatives. A second coalition of the four remaining significant opposition parties also did well, winning 24 seats, and were invited into the new coalition government with Racan as Prime Minister. Meanwhile, in elections held for a new President of the Republic, the four-coalition candidate Stipe Mesic, from the Croatian Peoples Party, won in a second round vote on February 7, 2000. The combined results bode well for a more democratic political system in Croatia with diminished power for the presidency, greater cooperation with the International Tribunal in The Hague prosecuting war crimes, and progress in Dayton implementation
in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as the return of Croatias own displaced Serb population.